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Stress and the coffee cup

Posted Feb 08 2011 11:46pm
Today was therapy, which meant another metaphor from Dr. H.  And--it really must be mentioned--another bonding session with her Keurig.

We got talking about stress, and she encouraged me to visualize my stress as a liquid filling a cup.  Some of her other patients like to imagine a rain gauge.  Others prefer teacups.  It's not so much the amount of stress (rain, tea, whatever) that causes a mess.  It's when your coping strategies (cup, etc) aren't large enough to hold all the stress.

I told Dr. H that my stress coping skills were like a cup, all right, but it's a coffee cup. {{I would never join the Tea Party for any number of ideological reasons, but I also seriously object to their choice of beverages. Latte Party, here I come!}}  This is especially interesting because I have the really bad habit of overfilling my coffee cup.  For some reason, despite decades of practice and thousands of cups poured, I always underestimate how much room I need to leave for milk.  To add the right amount of milk, I usually end up filling the stupid cup to the brim.  It makes transferring the cup to the microwave or to my mouth a somewhat difficult task.  Coffee stains are inevitable.

Most of the time, if I'm careful, the coffee doesn't spill much.  Of course, I can't just walk into the next room with my coffee cup. I have to carry it ever so carefully so that the coffee doesn't slosh around too much.  It's probably some of the closest I come to living on the edge.  It takes effort and concentration, but usually I manage just fine.

So it goes with stress.  Ideally, we'd have more ways of coping with stress than we do stress.  We don't need a lot more--an espresso shot in a Trenta Starbucks cup is a bit of overkill--but we also need to be able to feel that we have a handle on things.  That the stress isn't going to slosh over with one careless flick of the wrist.  I generally tend to keep my stress cup filled to the brim.  Major incidents are rare enough, but that filled-to-the-brim stress makes life much harder than it really needs to be.

Basically, you have two choices when there's a mismatch in how much stress/coffee is in your life and the size of your mug.  What I talked about with Dr. H was that you can either try and figure out how to decrease the amount of coffee in your cup, or you can find a bigger cup.  This means that you need to figure out how to decrease stress and/or increase coping skills.

The next two days are going to be Tip Day posts--the first on tips to decrease stress, and the second on how to increase coping skills.
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